Lighting and homicides: evaluating the effect of an electrification policy in rural Brazil on violent crime reduction


Introduction: This study estimates the effects of lighting on homicides in rural areas of developing countries. Methods: We use an IV strategy by exploring the LUZ PARA TODOS or Light for All (LPT) program that was adopted by the federal government to expand electrification to rural areas in Brazilian municipalities in the 2000s as an exogenous source of variations in access to electricity. Results: Our results indicate a significant decrease in homicide rates in municipalities the Northeast region, which is the poorest region of the country and most affected by the policy expansion. We estimate that helping a municipality increase from zero electricity coverage to full coverage reduces homicide rates by 92 per 100,000 inhabitants. This is equivalent to moving a municipality that is at the 99th percentile to the median (zero) of the crime distribution across municipalities. In addition, we perform placebo exercises using sub-samples of predominantly urban municipalities. The results increase our confidence in the IV strategy since our primary results were from areas with a larger percentage of rural population, as should be expected by the policy. Conclusions: This study contributes to the extant literature by investigating the effects of lighting on homicides in a different context, rural areas of a developing country (Brazil). © 2017 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC